The Ledes

Thursday, September 3, 2015.

AFP: "Embattled Guatemalan President Otto Perez announced his resignation Thursday, after a warrant was issued for his arrest for allegedly masterminding a huge fraud scheme."

New York Times: "Five Chinese Navy ships were sailing in international waters of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska on Wednesday, in what Pentagon officials said was the first such foray by Beijing. The move came on the last day of President Obama’s three-day visit to Alaska.... The White House said that the intent of the Chinese operation was unclear, but that the Pentagon had not detected any threatening activities."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

White House Live Video
September 3

1:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

7:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden delivers a lecture in Atlanta, Georgia (audio only)

Go to


Making Iced Tea out of Lemons. Not originally intended for publication. A friend of mine had some electrical work done on her house. She told me yesterday she was awaiting the inspector. Today in an e-mail titled "Inspector A Hole," she wrote, "Well, the inspector came early this morning.... He saw the gate closed and left. He did not ring the doorbell."

I wrote back, "I think when he arrived -- even if he didn't tell you what time he was coming -- you were supposed to be standing at the gate smiling, wearing an attractive outfit & holding out a tray of iced tea & cookies for him. A neat 'Welcome, Inspector A. Hole' sign would have been nice, too."

 A few minutes later, she responded with this:

You can't let the bastards get you down. Which helps explain why I so often post links to the most ridiculous inanities & hypocrisies coming out of the mouths of pols & pundits.

New York Times: "Bloomberg News laid off as many as 90 journalists on Tuesday[, Sept. 1,] in its newsrooms in New York, Washington and across the world, part of a plan to refocus the organization’s coverage on business, finance, economics, technology and politics. The rationale for the dismissals was outlined in a lengthy memo to the staff from Bloomberg’s new editor in chief, John Micklethwait."

Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.


Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

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The Commentariat -- April 13, 2013

Contributors' comments on Reality Chex are always superb. If you missed those to my post on Jim Gile, I highly recommend you give them a read.

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Obama has asked the mother of a six-year-old killed in last December's massacre in Newtown, Conn., to stand in for him in addressing the nation this weekend. Francine Wheeler, whose son, Ben, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, will deliver the president's weekly address that is aired on television and radio, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Friday." New York Times story, by Sarah Wheaton, here:

... See also Charles Pierce's commentary on the Politico piece on the Newtown family members, linked below. CW: what is galling about this week's address is that Wheeler has to make this plea to the Cowardly Congress, begging members to just do their damned jobs. ...

... Dana Milbank has more on how the Newtown family members pressured senators. (The difference between Milbank's characterization & Politico's is striking.)

Gail Collins, on President Obama's budget: "... anything that makes Paul Ryan this enthusiastic is scary." ...

... Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: President Obama's plan to calculate Social Security benefits based on chained CPI "would mean less money for the elderly. But it would also mean less money for children. One underappreciated point is that Social Security benefits millions of children and working-age Americans, as well as older adults." ...

... Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "... President Barack Obama's budget would raise ... Medicare premiums ... [for] comfortably retired seniors, adding to a surcharge that already costs some 2 million beneficiaries hundreds of dollars a year each. More importantly, due to the creeping effects of inflation, 20 million Medicare beneficiaries would end up paying higher 'income related' premiums for their outpatient and prescription coverage over time. Administration officials say Obama's proposal will help improve the financial stability of Medicare by reducing taxpayer subsidies for retirees who can afford to pay a bigger share of costs. Congressional Republicans agree with the president on this one, making it highly likely the idea will become law if there's a budget deal this year." CW: I guess I'm "comfortably retired" because the Feds take out about a fifth of my Social Security payment to cover the Medicare premium, a hefty deduction that makes me "uncomfortable."

Obama 2.0. John Broder of the New York Times: "Sally Jewell officially became the 51st interior secretary on Friday, taking the oath at noon from retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the Supreme Court's West Conference Room, one of two formal ceremonial conference rooms at the court.... The Senate approved her nomination on Wednesday on a vote of 87 to 11."

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama's personal income has plummeted in the four years since he was first inaugurated, thanks mostly to declining sales of his two best-selling books, according to his 2012 tax returns released on Friday. For 2009, Mr. Obama and Michelle Obama reported earning $5.5 million in income, almost all of it from royalties related to Mr. Obama's books, 'Dreams from My Father' and 'The Audacity of Hope.' Sales of the books made him a multimillionaire. By 2012, the couple's taxable income had dropped to about $608,000, with only about $273,000 from sales and royalties from the books, according to the tax return. Most of the income came from Mr. Obama's presidential salary of $400,000 per year." A pdf of the Obamas' tax return is here. The Bidens' tax return is here.

Kirk Johnson of the New York Times: "Under an agreement signed with the Obama administration last year, and just now taking shape, Oregon and the federal government have wagered $1.9 billion that -- through a hyper-local focus on Medicaid -- the state can show both improved health outcomes for low-income Medicaid populations and a lower rate of spending growth than the rest of the nation."

News Flash! Corporations Are Not Democracies. James Stewart of the New York Times: At 41 publicly traded companies where directors actually lost their elections last year, meaning that more than 50 percent of the shareholders withheld their votes of approval..., they remained in their posts.... That an electoral system unworthy of Soviet-era sham democracies is flourishing today in corporate America is largely thanks to the management- and director-friendly policies of Delaware, where more than half of United States companies are incorporated and where the corporate franchise tax contributes disproportionately to the state's revenue. State law controls board governance, and Delaware has long tolerated [so-called] plurality voting [where] ... directors run unopposed and just one vote is enough to be elected."

Graft, Virginia-Style. The Washington Post Editors whack Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for taking bribes gifts to family members from a Virginia CEO in exchange for promoting his company's products.

In a few grafs about a disgusting piece by Jim VandeHei & Mike Allen, Charles Pierce sums up what's the matter with Politico.

Local News

Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "The Virginia Board of Health voted Friday to require clinics that perform abortions to meet strict, hospital-style building codes that operators say could put many of them out of business."

News Ledes

Reuters: "A former justice of the peace in Kaufman County, Texas, whose home was searched as part of the probe into the killings of the local district attorney, his wife and a prosecutor, has been arrested on suspicion of threatening violence, officials said on Saturday. Eric L. Williams, 46, was arrested on Friday on charges of making a 'terroristic' threat, which generally involves a threat to commit violence.... It was not immediately clear whether the alleged threat had any connection to the slayings...."

AP: "Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad resigned on Saturday, leaving the Palestinians without one of their most moderate and well-respected voices just as the U.S. is launching a new push for Mideast peace."

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry arrived [in Beijing] on Saturday to seek China's help in defusing the growing tensions with North Korea." ...

     ... AP Update: " The United States and China committed Saturday to a process aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons, with the Obama administration gaining at least the rhetorical support of the only government that can exert significant influence over the reclusive North."

Washington Post: "As promised, Russia on Saturday released the names of American officials who are now banned from the country, in retaliation for the Magnitsky list made public in Washington on Friday. The United States imposed visa and banking sanctions on 18 Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses. Russia responded by naming 18 Americans it accuses of human rights violations at the Guantanamo prison camp, or of having had a role in the detention of Russian citizens in third countries."

Reuters: "The retrial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was aborted on Saturday when the presiding judge withdrew from the case and referred it to another court, causing an indefinite delay that sparked anger in the courtroom. Lawyers said that while the transfer would give prosecutors more time to draw on new evidence in an unpublished fact-finding commission's report into the repression, it could delay the case by months, increasing the risk that Mubarak, 84, may never be finally convicted and sentenced."


It Was Never Okay to Say "Nigger"

A couple of contributors have referred to this post by Neetzan Zimmerman of Gawker:

County Commissioner Jim Gile, 68, of Saline County, Kansas, was in a study session with his fellow commissioners when the subject of hiring an architect to design the repairs for the county's Road and Bridge Department building came up. Gile, a first-term commissioner who started serving in January, told the county that he preferred to hire an architect over having someone 'nigger-rigging it.'

According to Chris Hunter of the Salina Journal,

His comment brought laughter from others in the room. Salinan Ray Hruska, who attends most commission meetings and study sessions, asked Gile what he said. 'Afro-Americanized,' Gile replied.

So ha-ha, Gile thought saying "nigger" in a public meeting was pretty hilarious.

Now, let's look at Gile's "excuses," offered after the fact:

     (1) "... he meant to say 'jury-rigged.'" Because "jury" sounds a lot like "nigger," which sounds a lot like "Afro-American," so it was a slip of the tongue.

     (2) "It was a bad choice of words." Yeah.

     (3) Commission Chair Randy "Duncan said Friday that Gile's choice of words was not intended to offend anyone." So he had good intentions when he used a racial slur, then laughed about it.

     (4) "Gile said he grew up around the term, but it is something he shouldn't have used." Old habits die hard.

     (5) "I am not a prejudiced person. I have built Habitat homes for colored people." "Colored people": another great choice of words, a term that has been taboo for half a century. Evidently Gile forgot he knows how to say "Afro-American" -- as a "joke."

     (6) "Gile said he also has a close friend whom he regards as a sister who is black." So one of his best friends is black. This is one white boy who can't be a bigot.

     (7) "I don't ever do anything bad and don't know how to do anything bad. People know I am not." Well, maybe just this one time he did something bad.

As Zimmerman of Gawker & Commission Chair Duncan both point out, Gile's remark -- and his excuses -- were reminiscent of U.S. Rep. Don Young's (R-Alaska) casual remark last week about "wetbacks."

Like Gile, I am white and I grew up in the South. He and I are roughly the same age. I attended segregated public schools in a relatively poor section of the city. Racial prejudice was part of the fabric of the times. But "nigger" was never an acceptable term, and nobody I knew used it. You didn't hear it from students; you didn't hear it from teachers. You didn't read it in the newspaper; you didn't hear it on the radio. I won't say I never heard it. I did. But people who used racial slurs might as well have walked around wearing big signs that said "ignorant." Decent people -- and we're talking decent poor white people -- knew better.

There's a difference between the racial prejudice that pervaded the South (and elsewhere) and the racial animus that characterized the pushback against the civil rights movement. Whatever prejudices whites had against blacks -- and there were many -- they viewed as the nature of what was. They may have thought black people were "different" or "inferior" or should be "separated," but they took that as the "natural order of things," not as an indictment against a race of people.

What Gile was expressing was racial animus. He's Bull Connor, writ small. There are far too many like him still around. And one of the bad things they know how to do, to borrow Gile's phrase, is to lie. They are lying when they tell you they can't help these innocent little slips of the tongue because "they grew up around the term." They grew up knowing the term was taboo, that it was derogatory and that it was hurtful. They choose to use it anyway.

Where I grew up, people would call Jim Gile "white trash." I'll just refrain. Because I am a good, well-intentioned person who is not prejudiced and has a close friend who is white and I don't mean to offend anybody with my choice of words.


The Commentariat -- April 12, 2013

Julia Preston & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "A bipartisan group of senators has largely agreed on a broad immigration bill that would require tough border measures to be in place before illegal immigrants could take the first steps to become American citizens, according to several people familiar with drafts of the legislation." ...

... Erica Werner of the AP: "A bipartisan immigration bill soon to be introduced in the Senate could exclude hundreds of thousands of immigrants here illegally from ever becoming U.S. citizens, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the proposals. The bill would bar anyone who arrived in the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2011, from applying for legal status and ultimately citizenship, according to the aide, who was not authorized to discuss the proposals before they were made public and spoke on condition of anonymity." ...

... CW: as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has learned it is difficult being part of a Gang of Eight Egomaniacs. How is one to become the Top Egomaniac? First, young Marco attempted to distinguish himself by dramatically announcing that he was putting the brakes on the group's efforts. That didn't work well as the Gang of Eight-Minus-One Ecomaniacs went right along doing stuff. So now, as Manu Raju of Politico reports, Marky Marco is "offering himself up as the public face of a bill that will split the Republican Party -- but that his allies hope will propel him to the front of the GOP presidential sweepstakes." You said you want more transparency in government? Well, there you have it. No one could be more transparent than Marco.

** The People v. the Congress of the United States. Tim Egan on federal gun safety legislation and those who oppose it. ...

... New York Times Editors: "Democratic leaders are trying to prevent some of these dangerous amendments [to the gun bill] from ever reaching the floor, and many will have trouble getting the necessary 60 votes. But Thursday's brief victory of common sense has shaken the antiregulation extremists, who are quickly gearing up to make the road ahead as difficult as possible." ...

... Whither the Turtle? David Rogers of Politico: "Thursday's Senate vote to move ahead with gun control legislation marked the fifth time in just two months that Democrats have won a procedural showdown by peeling off Republicans at the expense of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)... This fits a pattern seen increasingly since mid-February: McConnell steadfast in opposition even as his rank-and-file cross the aisle, raising fragile hopes of a bipartisan revival. Without overstating, it's a record that suggests a real shift as the Kentucky Republican has seemed to turn his attention single-mindedly to protecting his right flank at home where he faces re-election next year.... The immediate beneficiary is Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but also what some see as a fledgling legislative revival in the Senate itself." ...

... CW: Maybe the Kentucky Gestapo has beat down poor Mitch: Phillip Bailey, et al., of WFPL, Louisville, Kentucky: "A secret recording of a campaign strategy session between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his advisors was taped by leaders of the Progress Kentucky super PAC, says a longtime local Democratic operative.... Jacob Conway, who is on the executive committee of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, says that day, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, who founded and volunteered for Progress Kentucky, respectively, bragged to him about how they recorded the meeting." ...

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Jacob Conway, the Jefferson County Democratic Party's executive committee member who originally accused Progress Kentucky of making the recording, told NBC News he was on his way to talk to the FBI about the allegations. And the group's treasurer [who is not accused of being a party to the taping] confirmed he had quit his position after the audio was published." ...

... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "McConnell has been going completely ballistic, comparing this to the Gestapo and Watergate; turns out it was a couple of guys standing in a public hallway with a smartphone, probably not doing anything illegal (although the jury’s still out on that)."

Greg Sargent: "Yesterday, GOP Rep. Greg Walden -- the chairman of the NRCC -- attacked the Chained CPI in Obama's budget as an assault on seniors. This was curious, because GOP leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor had expressed support for the idea only hours earlier.... Today reporters pressed Boehner on Walden's claims, and he distanced himself from the NRCC chair.... [SO] the GOP Congressional leadership is demanding that Obama embrace entitlement reform, and blasting him as unserious for failing to offer sufficient entitlement cuts. Obama has offered Republicans Chained CPI -- which is a Social Security benefits cut that Republicans themselves said they wanted. But the NRCC has now signaled Republicans may use this to pillory Dems in 2014 for going after seniors, just as Republicans attacked Dems on Medicare in the last two cycles.... This is not politics as usual." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: Boehner twice deflected reporters' questions about whether or not Republicans would use Obama's budget -- with its cuts to Social Security & Medicare -- to attack Democrats in the 2014 elections." ...

... This is a Republican proposal. And cynical attempts to make it otherwise by some represent, I think, dissonance within the Republican Party, and we've seen plenty of condemnation from conservatives and Republicans of that sort of flagrantly ridiculous and cynical attempt to disown a proposal that emanated from Republican leaders. -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney ...

... Jonathan Strong of Roll Call: Nothing "´╗┐change[s] the breathtaking cynicism of Walden's move.... Boehner declined to publicly urge Walden not to use chained CPI to attack Democrats, noting again that he had talked to Walden and 'we'll leave it at that.' Asked later in a Capitol hallway what he said to Walden, the speaker just laughed." Via Greg Sargent., who aptly pegs the Boehner-Walden two-step as "policy nihilism .... that helps explain why addressing the country’s problems has become all but impossible." ...

... Oh, gosh, the deficit hawks that operate the Washington Post Editorial Board are not impressed with Paul Ryan's fake "budget": Republicans' "pooh-poohing [Obama's budget] would be easier to take if the GOP had a real-world plan of its own. Instead, it pretends it can balance the budget without raising taxes -- but also without ever specifying the details of the spending that would be decimated, discretionary or otherwise. Mr. Ryan and others so far have wanted credit for fiscal prudence without political cost." They don't like Obama's budget either, of course, because it "it's not big enough.... But Mr. Obama has injected a courageous note of realism where the Republicans so far have shown none."

** Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) embarrassed government regulators during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Thursday morning as she demanded to know why they won't reveal how frequently big banks illegally foreclosed on homeowners. In January, regulators abandoned a case-by-case review of foreclosure fraud conducted by some of the nation's largest banks in favor of a $9.3 billion settlement. Under the deal, most of the 4.4 million homeowners who were foreclosed on in 2009 or 2010 received less than $1,000 each.... Warren pressed officials from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and The Federal Reserve for answers about how frequently banks broke the law, only to discover that regulators didn't know the exact number before reaching their settlement and were now unwilling to publicize the error rate." Listen to Warren at work ...

Edward Williams, in Salon: "The first lady elevated the conversation [about gun violence] Wednesday, during a rare return to her hometown of Chicago. In a city ravaged by violence, with more than 500 gun-related homicides last year alone, she spoke eloquently -- and apolitically -- transcending the partisan politics that seem to subvert her husband's efforts for reasonable gun control legislation. But what was most unique was for whom, and to whom, Michelle spoke. Her words gave voice to an oft ignored (but disproportionately affected) victim of America's gun violence: the black mother." Video of Obama's speech is in yesterday's Commentariat.

The Goldbugs. Paul Krugman: "Conservative-minded people tend to support a gold standard -- and to buy gold -- because they're very easily persuaded that 'fiat money,' money created on a discretionary basis in an attempt to stabilize the economy, is really just part of the larger plot to take away their hard-earned wealth and give it to you-know-who.... In modern America..., everything is political; and goldbuggism, which fits so perfectly with common political prejudices, will probably continue to flourish no matter how wrong it proves." ...

... Goldbugs, Ctd. Andrew Rosenthal: "The price of gold ... has fallen 17 percent since late 2011.... The explanation for this decline is fairly simple: Despite what the Ron Pauls of the world have been insisting for years, the Federal Reserve's loose monetary policy has not led to rampant inflation. The inflation rate was 1.6 percent in January and 2 percent in February."

Washington Post Editors: "President Obama is following through on the promise made at the start of his second term to stand up for the rights of the people of the District of Columbia. The inclusion in his proposed budget of a legislative provision that would give the District control over its own dollars is a significant development. With momentum building for budget autonomy -- D.C. residents are set to vote soon on a referendum on the issue -- Congress should take note and take the steps necessary to give the District its legitimate rights."

Peter Finn of the Washington Post: "The military justice system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been dogged by charges of secret monitoring of proceedings and defense communications, became embroiled in a fresh controversy Thursday when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails were turned over to the prosecution. The breach prompted Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief military defense counsel, to order all attorneys for Guantanamo detainees to stop using Defense Department computer networks to transmit privileged or confidential information until the security of such communications is assured."

Robert Parry: Tom Friedman is crazy. And stupid. Thanks to reader Bonnie for the link.

Right Wing World

Come out, come out, Dave Agema.Katie McDonough of Salon: "Family Research Council president and noted homophobe Tony Perkins hosted Republican National Committeeman and noted homophobe Dave Agema on the Wednesday broadcast of Perkins' 'Washington Watch' radio series.... Agema defended his decision to share a pseudoscientific 'research' paperthat alleges gays and lesbians are gonorrhea-riddled social deviants responsible for 'half the murders in major cities.' After expressing surprise that people found the 'research' and his subsequent comments to be hateful, Agema equated being gay with being an alcoholic...."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Marie Tallchief, a daughter of an Oklahoma oil family who grew up on an Indian reservation, found her way to New York and became one of the most brilliant American ballerinas of the 20th century, died on Thursday in Chicago. She was 88."

New York Times: "Jonathan Winters, the rubber-faced comedian whose unscripted flights of fancy inspired a generation of improvisational comics, and who kept television audiences in stitches with Main Street characters like Maude Frickert, a sweet-seeming grandmother with a barbed tongue and a roving eye, died on Thursday at his home in Montecito, Calif. He was 87."

Reuters: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed as 'unacceptable by any standard' weeks of bellicose warnings of impending nuclear war by North Korea and said Washington would never accept the reclusive state becoming a nuclear power. Kerry, addressing reporters after talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and leaders of the 28,000-strong U.S. military contingent in the country, also said the United States would defend its allies in the region if necessary."

AP: "Both of the white supremacist prison gang members whose names surfaced during an investigation into the slaying of Colorado's prisons chief are now behind bars. Colorado Springs authorities arrested Thomas Guolee, 31, around 5:30 p.m. Thursday.... Last week, fellow 211 Crew member James Lohr was arrested in Colorado Springs after a short chase."

AP: "Authorities say law officers in Arizona have intercepted an explosive device that was earmarked for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said late Thursday night that the device was contained in a package addressed to the sheriff at his downtown Phoenix office."

McClatchy News: "A promising young U.S. Foreign Service officer, three American soldiers and a civilian government contractor who were killed Saturday in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan probably wouldn't have been close to the blast if they hadn't gotten lost while walking to the school where they were to participate in a book-donation ceremony, according to an Afghan television reporter who was with them and was wounded in the attack.... A U.S. government official ... confirmed Wednesday night that the party had been on foot, and said earlier reports that they were in a vehicle convoy were inaccurate."

Al Jazeera: "Greece's unemployment rate reached a new record of 27.2 percent in January, new data has showed, reflecting the depth of the country's recession after years of austerity imposed under its international bailout."


The Commentariat -- April 11, 2013

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Dr. Ben Carson announced Wednesday that he is withdrawing as graduation speaker at Johns Hopkins University, ceding to demands from students concerned about his controversial recent comments about gay marriage."

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post picks the winners and losers in Obama's budget, with explanations. Winners: Medicaid, low-income taxpayers, hospitals, scientists, highway pavers, preschool, food-aid recipients. Losers: wealthy taxpayers & the finance industry, upper-income Medicare recipients, many Social Security recipients, farms & agribusiness, smokers, pharmeceutical makers, oil & gas & coal companies, the EPA. * ...

... Ezra Klein: "As the White House sees it, there are two possible outcomes to this budget. One is that it actually leads to a grand bargain, either now or in a couple of months. Another is that it proves to the press and the public that Republican intransigence is what's standing in the way of a grand bargain." ...

     ... Kevin Drum: "... the answer is behind Door #2.... The tax jihadists have reasserted their dominance, and there's zero chance that they'll agree to any kind of tax hikes. So: no grand bargain, and no cuts to Social Security." ...

     ... ** Steve Benen agrees with Drum:"The Beltway said Obama needed to reach out to Republicans, so he reached out to Republicans. The Beltway said Obama needed to schmooze Republicans in a more personal way, so he did that, too. The Beltway said Obama needed to be willing to alienate his own supporters, and the president's base has been duly outraged. The Beltway said Obama needed to put Medicare and Social Security on the table, and they're on the table. Will pundits who continue to blame 'both sides' for partisan gridlock look ridiculous in the coming months? I sure as hell hope so." ...

     ... "Imaginary Grownups." Paul Krugman: "Since the beginning, the Obama administration has seemed eager to gain the approval of the grownups -- the sensible people who will reward efforts to be Serious, and eventually turn on those nasty, intransigent Republicans as long as Obama and co. don't cater too much to the hippies. This is the latest, biggest version of that strategy. Unfortunately..., there are no grownups.... After all, if whoever it is that Obama is trying to appeal to here -- I guess it's the Washington Post editorial page and various other self-proclaimed 'centrist' pundits -- were willing to admit the fundamental asymmetry in our political debate, willing to admit that if DC is broken, it's because of GOP radicalism, they would have done it long ago." ...

... Matt Yglesias of Slate contrasts Obama's budget with Paul Ryan's. A quick, easy read. ...

... Speaking of Paul Ryan, Charles Pierce comments on this incredible Obama administration rationale for making old people pay for George Bush's wars & stuff:

We're not going to have the White House forever, folks. If he doesn't do this, Paul Ryan is going to do it for us in a few years. -- "A Longtime Obama Aide"

... Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider: "While the administration is portraying chained CPI as a concession to find compromise with Republicans, the proposal has infuriated Obama's liberal base. And for many of these progressives, it confirms concerns that they have harbored for some time." ...

     ... Here is economist Dean Baker's formal statement on chained CPI (which is worth a read). Here's what Baker told LoGiurato:

You piss on the people who care about Social Security, then you're serious. ...

     ... Digby: "It is simply not debatable that this agenda has been [Obama's] agenda since the beginning. He specifically said it, it cannot be any clearer." (With pre-2009 inauguration citations to prove it.) ...

... Digby looks at what Republicans & conservatives are saying about Obama's proposal. You'll be shocked, shocked to learn that some are shocked, shocked that this "budget really lays out kind of a shocking attack on seniors." ...

     ... Sarah Jones of PoliticusUSA: "The Republican’s budget guru [Paul Ryan] (who has yet to do the math on his budgets) dismissed the President's offer of chained CPI today, saying it isn't entitlement reform -- it's just 'clarifying a statistic.' Just last December, Republicans said they wanted Chained CPI more than any other 'entitlement' reform." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... Greg Sargent: "Late last year, [John] Boehner and Mitch McConnell explicitly called on Obama to agree to Chained CPI, with McConnell even claiming that Chained CPI and Medicare means testing 'would get Republicans interested in new revenue.' But now that Obama has included those things in his budget, Republicans are not only still unwilling to contemplate new revenue; the chair of the NRCC is signaling that Republicans will us it to attack Democrats for 'coming back at seniors,' just as they did in 2012 and 2010." ...

     ... CW: I know references to Uncle Remus are politically incorrect, particularly re: a black president, but Boehner & McConnell specifically & successfully B'rer-Rabbited Obama. Hey, literature is literature, and Brer Rabbit is derived from African- & Native American folk hero-tricksters. ...

     ... Brian Beutler of TPM re: Republicans' attacks on Obama's chained CPI gambit: yeah, we toldja this would happen. ...

... Andrew Sprung of Xpostfactoid on how Obama's proposal to calculate Social Security benefits on the basis of chained CPI is giving him a lot of "serious" creds. He's been "serious" before. Via Jonathan Bernstein. ...

... Here's a Pro-bama Analysis from Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The Obama budget proposal released Wednesday, like other White House budgets before it, also emphasizes the problem of inequality and the failure of the American economy to promote a thriving middle class.... The budget includes several proposals to tackle inequality and wage stagnation.... So far, the Obama administration has tackled the issue of inequality in two major ways. It has raised taxes on the wealthy, and it has expanded programs to aid lower-income Americans.... But if anything, the plight of the middle class has gotten worse since Mr. Obama took office, a result of long-existing economic trends and the after-effects of the deep recession." ...

... * Re: Plumer's picks above, he forgot -- Horses! Put Horses is the Winners' Column. Stephanie Strom of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has included a proposal in its 2014 budget that would effectively ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption."

President Obama introduces his FY 2014 budget:

** Ian Millhiser
of Think Progress: Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation yesterday during confirmation hearings for Sri Srinivasan's nomination to the influential D.C. Circuit Court. Grassley's bill: cut three seats from the D.C. court (& add two elsewhere). Read Millhiser's whole post. Grassley is a snake (with no disrespect meant to reptiles).

Alan Fram of the AP: "The Senate is ready to launch an emotion-charged debate on new gun restrictions.... In an opening showdown Thursday, senators were scheduled to vote on an attempt by conservatives to scuttle the Democratic bill before debate even started." ...

     ... New York Times Update, by Jennifer Steinhauer: "With families of victims of the Newtown, Conn., massacre watching silently from the chamber, the Senate thwarted a threatened filibuster with a vote of 68 to 31 and will proceed next week to debate a package of legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers and increase the penalties for criminal sales, in addition to a variety of other amendments. Those include the renewal of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. Twenty-nine Republicans voted against the measure, as did two Democrats." ...

     ... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The two Democrats who voted against proceeding, Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), face difficult reelections in 2014." ...

... Michael Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "Opponents of expanded background checks, including the National Rifle Association, argue that they would not prevent criminals from acquiring guns, since many get them through back-market sales or theft, or by getting 'straw purchasers' -- people who can pass background checks -- to buy guns on their behalf. But the checks have blocked purchases. Since 1998 more than a million potential sales have been rejected -- usually because the would-be buyers are convicted felons or fugitives from justice, or they have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution, among other reasons. How many of those rejected buyers were able to buy guns without background checks, from private sellers in person or over the Internet, is difficult to say, in part because restrictions imposed by Congress make it difficult for law enforcement officials to track firearms sales." ...

     ... CW: we should stop blaming the NRA. Congress is the problem. It could be argued that the NRA has so exposed itself as craven and/or crazy in its responses to the Newtown massacre that it is actually helping the gun safety cause. ...

... Two Americas. David Klepper of the AP: " Rhode Island would ban the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines under legislation proposed Tuesday by the governor, attorney general and top lawmakers in response to the December school shooting in neighboring Connecticut. The measure would also stiffen penalties for a variety of gun crimes, require all handgun permits to go through the attorney general's office and create task forces to review state gun laws and the use of mental health records in background checks. Rhode Island already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country."...

... Michelle Obama spoke in Chicago yesterday about youth violence:

Charles Blow writes a terrific piece titled "Rand Paul Goes to Howard." -- Blow explains to Paul why "blah" people vote Democratic even though Republican Abe Lincoln freed the slaves & all. Doh! ...

... Dana Milbank: "'No Republican questions or disputes civil rights,' [Paul] proclaimed [at Howard]. 'I've never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act.' Howzat? As a candidate in 2010, Paul questioned the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act's Title II, which prohibits private discrimination." Milbank retells some of the exchanges between Paul & his audience.

Gail Collins: some U.S. Senators are actually doing some legislating stuff.

Paul Fahri of the Washington Post profiles David Corn of Mother Jones.

Robert Mackey of the New York Times on the reactions to Margaret Thatcher's death. Contributor Roger Henry should be amused (see yesterday's Comments). ...

... Paul Krugman on why Margaret Thatcher's true Heir in America is -- Bobby Jindal! Happily, Krugman speaks ill of the dead AND the living.

Right Wing World *

I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change, and that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy. -- Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), testifying before a Congressional Committee on the Keystone XL pipeline ...

... Brad Friedman: "You may remember Barton from 2010, after the BP oil spill in the Gulf, as the man who actually apologized to BP's then CEO during a U.S. House hearing, for what he described as a White House "shakedown", after the company agreed to pay some $20 billion to help clean up the unprecedented disaster and help restore the livelihoods of many who lost everything thanks to the spill."

* Where the mind is a common thing to lose.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "The gun Rick Warren's son used to kill himself was unregistered and purchased on the Internet, the pastor tweeted Thursday afternoon.... Sheriff's Department records show no one in the Warren family is registered to carry a concealed weapon in Orange County, and authorities have said they were struggling to determine where 27-year-old Matthew Warren obtained the weapon. A source close to the investigation confirmed it was a shotgun."

Washington Post: "North Korea likely has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile, according to a new assessment by the Pentagon's intelligence arm that comes amid growing alarm over Pyongyang's warmongering. The conclusion by the Defense Intelligence Agency said the weapon would have 'low reliability,' but the disclosure during a congressional hearing Thursday is likely to raise fresh concerns about North Korea's capabilities and intentions."

New York Times: "On Thursday, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against [Scott] London, [a long-time partner in accounting giant KPMG,] ... and Bryan Shaw, the owner and operator of a Los Angeles-area jewelry business..., laying bare a brazen two-year insider trading scheme. The Securities & Exchange Commissionfiled a parallel civil case against Mr. London and Mr. Shaw."

AP: "The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, signaling that the job market might be stronger than March's weak month of hiring suggested."

AP: "Storms packing rain, snow and dangerous winds raked the Midwest and spawned a possible tornado outside of St. Louis that prompted an emergency declaration from Missouri's governor. To the north icy weather left thousands without power and prompted Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to call out the state Nation Guard to aid residents as the state braced for another storm system that threatened to dump several inches of wet snow Thursday."

The Hill: "The struggling U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday backed off its plan to limit Saturday mail delivery, saying recent congressional action gave them no choice. The agency's board of governors said it still backed the plan to no longer deliver letters and other pieces of first-class mail six days a week, a move the Postal Service says will save some $2 billion a year. But the board said that the passage of a stopgap spending measure in Congress last month -- which kept language mandating six-day delivery -- has tied the service's hands and forced it to delay needed changes."